Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

How To Forgive And Let Go

How To Forgive And Let Go

I have heard over the years lots of people say how important forgiveness is and I never ever really understood what they meant. I didn't know how to do it and I certainly had no appreciation of what it was. In fact forgiveness became a word I would end up squinting at sideways, with suspicion.

"Forgiveness became a word I would end up squinting at sideways, with suspicion"

I have heard religious people talk at length about forgiveness and therapists (yes I've had a few) talk about forgiving myself to the extent that it had become a sort of non-word for me. I kept hearing the word but no-one told me how to do it.

It was only in the last few years that I think I have started to understand what it is and how to do it.

Most of us carry around hurts and anger about things other people have done or said and embarrassment, shame or even horror at things we ourselves have done or said.

It wasn't until I realised that at any particular time, everyone is doing the best that they can, with the thoughts, emotions and beliefs that they have - at that moment. At any moment in time they make the decisions they make believing them to be the best response right then. Even if the outcome has dire consequences.

I was a police officer for 18 years and over that time met many many criminals and people who had done terrible things including murder. When I look back on the long line of people I dealt with, every single one of them (even the odd socio and psychopath) were doing what they believed was a reasonable response given the way they saw, felt and believed the world to be at that moment.

When I think back to the hurts I have carried, inflicted by loved ones and others and perpetrated myself...

When I think back to the hurts I have carried, inflicted by loved ones and others and perpetrated myself, they were each and every one, responses to how they (and I) saw the situation at that moment. They (and I) were doing the best they could in that moment with everything they felt, understood and believed.

Now that's not to say they (and I) couldn't do better. It is only after the fact that we may (or may not) reflect on what happened and hopefully learn.

This realisation has helped me to 'forgive', let go of things and find peace.

This understanding is also the basis of another thing I never understood. Be gentle with/on yourself. For me, now being gentle requires forgiveness which in turn requires understanding the nature of the way we often decide to do and say things.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." ~Mahatma Gandhi

The problem is if we don't forgive and let go, we become prisoners, locked in the cells of our own making - with only our hurt, anger or shame as cell mates.

 

Rate this blog entry:
8
Continue reading
5533 Hits
0 Comments

Robin Williams 1951 - 2014

Robin Williams 1951 - 2014

As I was posting my last blog about the problems Experiential Avoidance can escalate into, including suicide and addictions, a heart-breaking drama was playing itself out in the Californian home of the Oscar winning actor and comedian Robin Williams who was 63.

Robin had long been diagnosed with severe depression and had battles with drink and cocaine addiction for which he had famously received treatment for at a rehab centre.

Reporting the death of Robin in the early hours of this morning (UK time) the Marin County sheriff's office stated they suspected suicide by asphyxiation.

Robin's wife Susan Schneider said this morning "This morning I lost my husband and best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,"

Robin openly talked about his battles with alcohol and cocaine in the early 1980s, and his relapse in 2006. He appeared to have recovered however last month he returned to rehab in Minnesota.

Suicide is often seen as a selfish act, however as one who had in the past seriously considered such action whilst suffering from depression myself, having dealt with depression and anxiety in many other people therapeutically and having attended suicides and prevented a number of suicides as a police officer, all the individual often wants is relief from the symptoms of the crushing depression.

In an interview in 2010, asked about his depression and had he felt happier, Robin replied : "I think so. And not afraid to be unhappy. That's OK too. And then you can be like, all is good. And that is the thing, that is the gift."

This comes back to the heart of the dangers of Experiential Avoidance.

My heart goes out to Robin's family and friends. We have lost a true talent and extraordinary fellow human being in very sad circumstances.

If you recognise and think you too may be avoiding feelings, thoughts, memories, physical sensations and other internal experiences please get help.

 

Rate this blog entry:
4
Continue reading
3758 Hits
0 Comments

The happiness fallacy and the wisdom of sitting in it.

The happiness fallacy and the wisdom of sitting in it.

In the last few weeks I have been a bit 'flat'. Not happy but not depressed or anxious, just flat and down. The kind of feeling that things aren't going the way I want them too, that I'm not getting traction on the projects I am working on. This has been accompanied by strong sense of frustration and I have been questioning my direction and what I am doing. I suppose I would describe it as a downer or feeling low.


I'm normally a pretty high energy kind of person, motivated, productive and active in my field so the change has been quite marked. The interesting thing has been the reaction of my family, friends and colleagues. Many of them have, out of love and good intention, focussed on getting me 'out of it'. There have been a legion offers of cakes, trips out, motivational talks, sympathy, and a myriad other ways to help. I learned sometime ago not to run from these emotions, not to try to artificially fix them. When I have explained that 'it's ok i just need to sit in it for a while' most, who know me smile and realise I don't need to be fixed. For some others there is a shake of the head and bemusement as to why I wouldn't want to be pulled out of the trough I am in. Others who know me less well others ignore my "it's ok, I will be ok, sometimes you just need to be where you are' and switch into fixing it mode with a vengeance despite my protestations.

As I am frequently explaining, emotional resilience is not the absence of feeling, as is a common misperception, it is almost the opposite. It is the ability to feel, recognise those feelings and bounce back. There is another aspect to emotional resilience however and that is not being afraid of our emotions. Having the ability to recognise and observe the emotion without feeling the need to run away from the emotion or to fix it.

The thing about a trough is that you must have had a crest before it and there will inevitably be a another crest on it's way. Such cycles are not just a part of life but they have a reason for being. I am in an emotional trough because of patterns of thought which, if I allow them to be and observe, point to the fact that things aren't quite going as I wish. Listening to that message is important as it usually heralds change. Sitting in it and observing it means that I am starting to see what are called the emergent properties or patterns in the reality I am currently in. These emergent properties are showing me the way to the next change. I am starting to see my 'where next'.

There is a happiness fallacy that we need to be happy all the time and downers or troughs are to be avoided at all costs. As long as the downer doesn't turn into negative rumination about the emotion which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and become habituated as depression, as long as you just sit in it and observe, a process known as decentering, you turn the situation into a positive and productive episode. In years gone by, I would have pulled myself out of it or gone into a depressive episode.

I am already starting to see the patterns or the emergent properties in this trough. It is just an emotion, nothing to run from or avoid. The emotion is there for a reason and if you watch carefully, that reason or reasons will become apparent, leading the way to new ways of doing things, new things to do and new ways to be. It's called learning and growth. So I am very happy to be down!

Rate this blog entry:
8
Continue reading
3931 Hits
0 Comments

You think too much....

You think too much....

One of the things that appears to separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to know we are thinking, what is known as meta-cognition.

Connected to this meta-cognitive ability is our capacity for reflecting on things that have happened. This ability to remember at will, and in effect go over things again, lie at the heart of one of our learning systems. Because we can go back and 're-live' a situation, we can also come to conclusions about an event and then plan what to do the next time something like this event occurs again. So image you have just had a conversation with the boss about a job he or she gave you and the boss got angry during the conversation. Under normal circumstances when we are well balanced and have things in perspective we should be able to go over the events again and work out what went wrong, even to the extent to realising that maybe we should have handled things a bit differently and it's not surprising the boss got angry, or what ever conclusion we come to.

This ability to reflect on things is a vital part of our reflexive learning processes (exploring the relationships between cause and effect). If you reflect, come to a conclusion and make a plan, and maybe even put it into action, you have engaged in learning.

This is normal and you will move on. What can occur for many people however is that they get stuck in a cycle between reflecting on what happened, or worse still on what hasn't but could happen (a projection) and coming to a conclusion. So the individual goes from reflection, to conclusion to reflection and so on, without breaking out of the reflective process and never reaching a final conclusion. This can occur in some individuals many many times where they find it hard to let go of the reflective phase of the process. This rumination particularly occurs when there are negative emotions present in the scenario and is the hallmark of depression and episodes of anxiety.

So given the situation above, the individual would keep coming back to the conversation with the boss in their head and start to feel the uncomfortable feelings of embarrassment, anger, anxiety or whatever. The emotion then blocks the progression of thinking (to conclusion) and the individual goes back to reflection and so starts another (vicious) cycle of reflection or rumination.

The problem with rumination is that every cycle of reflection can intensify the negative emotion and make the next cycle of reflection even more likely and emotionally worse.
These ruminative traps are more likely when we are feeling anxious, depressed or even stressed. OCD is also based on this process, but has become more of a habit or trait for the individual. Rumination keeps us stuck in the emotion.

Like the conclusion of my blog yesterday, going and doing/focussing on something else is the way out of this cycle, and getting some help from stress, depression or anxiety of course.

Rate this blog entry:
6
Continue reading
4607 Hits
0 Comments

How the Gruffalo develops emotional literacy, emotional intelligence and emotion regulation.

How the Gruffalo develops emotional literacy, emotional intelligence and emotion regulation.

In this next few blogs I am going to look at emotional literacy, what it is, why it is important and what you can do to help develop it.

Me at an orphanage in South AfricaI am involved in a project in South Africa which is focussed on developing emotional literacy in school children. It has been discovered that if a child grows up without much emotional interaction with caregivers their ability to be able to read the emotional cues others and develop empathy is significantly stunted.

As a baby develops it starts to mimic the expressions of those around it. So we end up playing games with the baby, at first sticking our tongue out for example in response for the child to then copy. As these games develop what is happening as we swap facial expressions is that the child starts to learn to 'read' the facial expressions and body language both on the face of the adult and associate their moods and emotions to those expressions, like laughing or crying. We are in effect helping to programme the baby to associate visual cues with emotions.


As the child develops greater acuity in decoding the signals of emotions they also quickly learn to empathise with the emotional Children asleep on an orphanage floorstate of others. So they not only notice or recognise (decode) when someone is sad or happy or scared, they go inside and can feel the same emotions and understand where that individual is internally. This is emotional literacy.

The problem occurs when a child grows up in a situation where they rarely see others faces, or these facial games that we just automatically play aren't part of the child's learning process. So situations in overcrowded orphanages in areas with high parental death rates from deseases such as HIV/AIDS like areas of South Africa for example or where the child spends most of their day on their mothers back facing inwards tend not to allow for the development of emotional literacy.

Emotions of a GruffaloThe development of emotional literacy doesn't end with mirroring facial expressions. In the west we usually start giving our children picture books at a very early age. When you analyse the content of these books they are full of emotional cues such as expressions and body language. Illustrators of children's books usually include emotional cues even on animals and other non-existant characters in children's books like the Gruffalo story for example. You can tell or decode exactly what any of the characters in that story are feeling just from the drawings. Children in the west are often but nort always surrounded by the building blocks of emotional literacy. 

In areas like Africa on the other hand with high poverty rates such books are rare as are the normal emotional signals a child would normally get with one-to-one care. The problem is that emotional literacy is the precrusor to empathy and empathy, it turns out, is what stops most of us turning to crime, abuse and violence.

In the second of the series I will look at the research evidence behind this post, why some people are bullies and a whole load more!

Free Course

Free course starting today from David WilkinsonDavid Wilkinson on Vimeo.

Get your FREE anxiety and fear busting course now!

Rate this blog entry:
10
Continue reading
127458 Hits
0 Comments